Aussie actors and American accents

mjd   Thursday, January 08, 2004, 23:42 GMT
I've noticed that many Australian actors and actresses are very good at doing American accents. Two that come to mind are Hugo Weaving in "The Matrix" (His trademark...."Mr. Anderson!"), Naomi Watts ("The Ring"....and I just saw her in "21 Grams"...her accent was excellent), and, of course, Nicole Kidman.

It's odd when I hear them speak with their natural accent; I'm so used to hearing them speak with an American one. Anyway...I'm impressed.
mjd   Thursday, January 08, 2004, 23:44 GMT
*correction: "THREE that come to mind...."
mjd   Thursday, January 08, 2004, 23:53 GMT
By the way....Jim, how is your American accent? (My Australian one is pretty bad).
Nick   Friday, January 09, 2004, 01:16 GMT
I have noticed that Australian actors are very good at accents, generally speaking. Nicole Kidman can be a bit "general" at times, making all the right sounds, but not adapting her speech. Americans are less commonly good at them, but maybe that's because there are so many more of them so it's easier to generalise, but the American accent is a stronger accent than the Australian, and the Australian accent is one of the hardest to learn, certainly to teach from my point of view. I've never heard an American do a convincing Aussie accent for a sustained period. They make the same mistakes with the "know" sound and the "take" sound - their placement is very different to the Australian accent.

That said, Renee Zelweiger (spelling?) does an excellent British accent in "Bridget Jones," Brad Pitt does an excellent dialect in "Snatch," and Johnny Depp in "Pirates..." did a fanatstic job, I literally jumped when he opened his mouth.

I similarly have a bit of a jolt when I hear Gabirel Byrne speak with his natural Irish, or Liam Neeson in his accent. I remember being astounded to discover that Minnie Driver was not American - she is very good. Russel Crowe is good at US, also, but his British leaves a little to be desired, being more of a softening of his Australian.

pobre_diablo   Friday, January 09, 2004, 01:53 GMT
renee zellweger's american accent is kinda weird. i used to think she wasnt american and not just because of the bridget jones' diary.
Jim   Friday, January 09, 2004, 05:32 GMT

I can do an American accent but I don't know how well: I've never asked an American to judge it.
Nick   Friday, January 09, 2004, 06:40 GMT
This sounds a bit pretentious, but my friends and I often will put on an accent when shopping or ordering food/drinks. It's really good practice. I have some non-actor friends who also do it - but not all of them are good.

When I was working as a sales assistant and learning accents at Uni, I pretended to be from Northern Ireland all day, and on another day it was New York. No one batted an eyelid, although I did once get asked a Boston question when I was supposed to be Bostonian - can't remember how I got out of that one.

I must say it's loads of fun - as Americans you get stared at, and people want to listen to you, it's weird. Maybe it's because the accent is so recognisable in a crowd of Aussies.

There's a film with Kate Winslett in which she does a flawless Aussie accent, but can't remember the name... was it "Hideous Kinky" or was that a US film?

mjd   Friday, January 09, 2004, 06:46 GMT
Olivia Williams did a decent American accent in "Sixth Sense," although I could hear her British accent sneaking through from time to time.
Antonio   Friday, January 09, 2004, 11:16 GMT
Renee Zelweiger had something really odd about her accent in Brigit Jones. If you compare her and the other actors she is clearly a ´spare brick´.

Hugo Weaving didn´t sound american to me.

Johnny Deep is fantastic indeed. He impersonates very well in ´Deep Hollow?´ and ´Pirates of the Caribbean?´. I would even say ´perfect´ if all his characters didn´t sound so comic. Maybe that´s what they are meant for, right?

I had a hard time believing that Nicole Kidman WASN´T american at first! She sounds a genuine article!
Juan   Saturday, January 10, 2004, 02:01 GMT
>>Russel Crowe is good at US, also, but his British leaves a little to be desired, being more of a softening of his Australian.<<

Nick, have you seen "Mystery Alaska". Eventhough I'm not a native English speaker, Crowe's attempt at an American accent in this movie leaves a lot to be desired in this movie, wouldn't you say? At first I wasn't aware that Crowe was an aussie but it all made sense when I found out. Also his other movies (A Beautiful Mind etc, etc, etc) I still don't buy his American accent. Kidman's is slightly better. One aussie actress that had me fooled and convinced was Portia de Rossi. Her American accent was flawless!! I couln't believe she wasn't American. Anyway what's all the fuss about Crowe. As an actor he's decent enough, nothing special. Yeah, but I do agree that Kidman is definitely a talented actress, very versatile in her roles and performances.
Rugger   Saturday, January 10, 2004, 02:59 GMT
The simple fact is that Aussies are so exposed to American TV, films and music that the American accents have become very easy to mimic. You don't really have to consciously think about how an American would pronounce every day words because you have heard them so often pronounced in an American accent on telly. Most of the Aussie youngsters I know can put on a passable American accent and sustain them, plus easily interchange between the Aussie and American accents. They have observed from telly the small differences such as how Americans pronounce their "r" in words or differences in pronounciation of vowels. Americans, on the other hand, can't just jump into a fluent Aussie accent becuase with lack of exposure to Australian TV/films/music they (1) have to actually ponder how an Aussie would pronounce common words (thus making it difficult to fluently talk with an Aussie accent) and when stumped will (2) resort to stereotypical/exaggerated ways of pronouncing words (like putting on a cockney accent; e.g. day pronounced as "die").
Jordi   Saturday, January 10, 2004, 08:02 GMT

Isn't Australian the accent which is evolving the most in the English-Speaking world? You've only got to listen to older Australians and the younger generation. I grew up in Australia in the late sixties and seventies and I haven't been back although I must and will. Once you've lived there you'll never get the country out of your system. I've heard younger Australians in Europe and I'm amazed at how fast the changes are ocurring. Maybe I'm wrong and this is certainly not the place where to write an essay. On the whole, older and more educated Australians sound closer to Educated Southern English although Australian is recognisable from the start and I would never be fooled on this subject. Then again Great Britain and Australia are the two English-Speaking countries I know best. Do native Australians who read me feel this way with their grandparents or seniors by age? I've seen the Australian soap opera "Neighbours" on telly a couple of times in my London hotel room and the linguistic differences, between older characters and teenagers, are more than just the normal generational differences in any other variety of English. I was also amazed one morning in London at 7.30 AM because they were using an Australian children programme (can't remember the name) to teach English to younger English kids at breakfast time. By the way, I'm only interested in dialectology without further considerations. Unfortunately I haven't heard Russel Crowe, since English Speaking pictures are dubbed in Spain, and I never have the time to go to a picture house when I'm in London. Nevertheless, wouldn't a softening of Standard Educated Australian be almost RP if one gets the right intonation, which would be the most difficult thing for an Educated Australian or an Educated Londoner trying to imitate each other. I've known Australians who've lived in London for a couple of years to sound almost RP or Estuary except for the trained ear. That could never happen to Americans, not even after living 30 years in London and I know a few of them.
Jordi   Saturday, January 10, 2004, 14:24 GMT
I just thought I would quote a young Australian from another forum and I would ask Nick, as an accent expert, or anyone else to comment:
"I am Australian born and bred as are both my parents. On each of my four
visits to the UK I have been asked how long I have been away from the
country. This was extremely interesting to me on the first visit as neither
my parents or myself had ever set foot in the UK before this. I have meet
quite a few Americans who also mistake my accent for an English one. The
explanation is relatively simple - I have an educated Australian accent i.e.
I never speak like the typical Aussie shown on TV. I did diction classes at
school and this has influenced my accent. I suspect that what has happened with Melissa is that she has spent quite a bit of time out of OZ, as well as undertaken elocution (sp) lessons which is affecting the accent.

Personally I don't think there is a single Australian accent anyway as I
find the broad accent easy to pick and find it grates. Very few of my
friends or acquaintances speak like that - my point is that not all Aussies
have the same accent and some of us sound more English than others, but we are definitely Aussies.
Alice   Saturday, January 10, 2004, 18:05 GMT
Hugo Weaving's American accent in the Matrix trilogy was meant to sound somewhat unconvincing. It was a conscious choice to emphasize the artificial nature of Agent Smith. I too was shocked to discover that Nichole Kidman wans't american, & this thread was the first time I'd heard that Portia deRossi wasnn't, that comes as quite a surprise. As far as the Aussie accent goes, as an american actress trying to learn it, it's proving one of the more difficult, but I'm getting there.
mjd   Sunday, January 11, 2004, 02:51 GMT
Yeah, but just because his voice was a bit odd doesn't mean it was bad. I'm an American and if I ran into Agent Smith on the street, aside from being freaked out by the revelation that I'm just a brain in a vat being harvested by machines, I'd think that he was an American. When the "Matrix" first came out, I didn't know Hugo Weaving was Australian until I read it.